Even though Pro Tour Magic Origins is still fresh in our minds and we are currently looking at a new Standard format, I want to look forward to what I think could be some powerful shells after rotation. It may be premature, but there may be financial opportunity and a way to get ahead of the metagame by taking the time to look towards the future of Standard.
The first archetype with potential to be really powerful is Atarka Red. There will be some changes to the core of the deck, as we are losing [card]Stoke the Flames[/card], [card]Lightning Strike[/card], and [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card], but I’d like to look at a build I think will be powerful:
[deck title= Atarka Red]
*4 Monastery Swiftspear
*3 Zurgo Bellstriker
*4 Lightning Berserker
*4 Abbot of Keral Keep
*4 Wild Slash
*4 Atarka’s Command
*4 Exquisite Firecraft
*1 Fiery Impulse
*4 Dragon Fodder
*4 Hordeling Outburst
*2 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
I am only posting mountains because we have no idea what kind of fixing we are going to see in Battle for Zendikar, which could stop allied-colored aggressive decks in their tracks before deck-building even starts. That said, I think this shell has a lot of potential if the manabase can be consistent and fast. I think that after rotation, [card]Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker[/card] will be poised to make a splash. [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] will be rotating, and I expect many pros to be leaning hard on [card]Languish[/card] to keep boards clear. Sarkhan doesn’t care about [card]Languish[/card]. While looking at the list, it’s easy to see the other synergies that work well with this all-but-forgotten planeswalker. [card]Atarka’s Command[/card] has several modes and I think the most overlooked, especially in an aggressive deck, is its ability to ramp out a land. This is great on turn three when you want to push through damage for your [card]Monastery Swiftspear[/card] and [card]Dragon Fodder[/card] tokens while also enabling a turn four Sarkhan. An additional land drop doesn’t hurt when you’re looking to dash out [card]Lightning Berserker[/card]s either. The other synergy Sarkhan has that finishers like [card]Thunderbreak Regeant[/card] or [card]Avaricious Dragon[/card] do not is that it is a noncreature spell, triggering Prowess on [card]Monastery Swiftspear[/card] and [card]Abbot of Keral Keep[/card]. We haven’t seen any cards spoiled from Battle for Zendikar (at least not for an archetype like this) yet, so it could just get better from here.
The strong sideboard options that will be available post-rotation are not all that different from what we have now. We can plan for longer attrition games with [card]Molten Vortex[/card] and [card]Outpost Siege[/card]. Against the mirror, we have access to [card]Scouring Sands[/card]. If large ground creatures look to get in the way of our plans, a full playset of [card]Roast[/card] is available if we so choose.
Another shell I think has a ton of potential is a Sultai reanimator deck. Though we are losing [card]Satyr Wayfinder[/card], there are still plenty of enablers available. The first, and most powerful, is [card]Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound[/card]. Jace is a discard outlet to pitch your reanimator target (perhaps something like [card]Gaea’s Revenge[/card]), he helps smooth out your draws, and also has the ability to snap back instants and sorceries. [card]Gather the Pack[/card] seems like a natural fit to find and/or mill creatures, while also stocking your graveyard (similar to [card]Satyr Wayfinder[/card]). What reanimator spell best fits in with this strategy? [card]Necromantic Summons[/card]. If you enjoyed or are familiar with Matthew Tickal’s take on [card]Rally the Ancestors[/card], Jace is great at flashing back the Rally if it was milled or already cast. In essence, Jace turns [card]Necromantic Summons[/card] into an [card]Unburial Rites[/card] with upside (the two +1/+1 counters). Other roleplayers in the deck are [card]Sultai Charm[/card] and [card]Murderous Cut[/card]. While [card]Murderous Cut[/card] is pretty straightforward, [card]Sultai Charm[/card] provides not just removal for creatures AND artifacts/enchantments, but also serves as an additional discard outlet (with its [card]Catalogue[/card] mode). The versatility that [card]Sultai Charm[/card] provides with the ability to flash it back with [card]Jace, Telepath Unbound[/card] makes it an all-star, jack-of-all-trades for this style of deck. Though we obviously don’t have the full picture, we can start to piece together a shell and, as spoiler season starts, we can look to fill in the gaps:
Sultai Reanimator (key components)
4 [card]Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy// Jace, Telepath Unbound[/card]
4 [card]Gather the Pack[/card]
4 [card]Necromantic Summons[/card]
4 [card]Sultai Charm[/card]
2 [card]Murderous Cut[/card]
3 [card]Sagu Mauler[/card] (great if it becomes an 8/8 hexproof trampler)
2 [card]Gaea’s Revenge[/card] (potentially a turn five 10/7 with Haste that cannot be targetted)
So we have the start to a deck with synergy, utility, and a high power level. The hidden reason for building a shell like this is that [card]Despise[/card] will still be legal after rotation, and [card]Necromantic Summons[/card] doesn’t matter whose graveyard a fatty comes from. If [card]Dragonlord Atarka[/card] is still a thing after the devotion deck rotates, the sideboard plan of making your opponent discard his or her Atarka, upgrading it to a 10/10 with flample, and doing it on turn 5, seems powerful. Another reason to look at a reanimator shell is that the one spoiler we’ve seen from Battle for Zendikar is an Eldrazi. While the Eldrazi Titans cannot be binned to reanimate at sorcery speed, the set may have some Eldrazi targets in the 7-8 mana cost range with powerful abilities that are worth cheating into play. My favorite part of this strategy is that this shell only makes up about a third of the deck. From here we can look to be controlling with sweepers like [card]Languish[/card] and countermagic in the form of [card]Clash of Wills[/card] , further abuse the graveyard and add value with [card]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/card], and even fit the powerful [card]Den Protector[/card]/[card]Deathmist Raptor[/card] midrange combo. There are many different directions we could go and seems like a worthwhile place to start brewing, especially since [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card] won’t be around to rain on our parade.
The final deck that I’ve been thinking a lot about is a base-blue Temur tempo list. This style of deck gets much better after rotation happens. Without Elvish Mystic, Courser of Kruphix, and Sylvan Caryatid in the Standard format, the board may open up on the ground in the early turns. Cards like [card]Frost Walker[/card], [card]Bounding Krasis[/card], and [card]Harbinger of Tides[/card] seem as though they could play very well together. [card]Bounding Krasis[/card] can tap down blockers to allow [card]Frost Walker[/card] to swing in or tap down an opposing creature before it attacks, allowing [card]Harbinger of Tides[/card] to bounce it the following turn. Though [card]Frost Walker[/card] is about the squishiest threat imaginable, it is capable of dishing out a ton of damage per turn and is a turn 2 Ferocious enabler. The countermagic available to us really pushes a tempo strategy like this over the top as well. [card]Stubborn Denial[/card] protects our threats, [card]Clash of Wills[/card] is versatile and can be quite a nuisance for opponents to play around, and this actually feels like a deck that could get value out of [card]Temur Charm[/card]. In a deck like this, we also have the ability to use [card]Savage Knuckleblade[/card] to its full potential. Instead of running it out as a 3-drop that trades for a removal spell, it can be a finisher that we can play while keeping up extra mana to protect it or disrupt our opponent, much like [card]Gurmag Angler[/card] in the modern Grixis Delver and Grixis Control decks. The reason I feel this strategy could be so powerful in the upcoming format is the manabase that enables it. Being base blue, we have access to both [card]Shivan Reef[/card] and [card]Yavimaya Coast[/card], which makes the deck very fast (painfully fast), and [card]Frontier Bivuoac[/card] for all of our colors. I’m not sure that all of the pieces are out there to make this a tier-1 strategy, but there’s one card in particular that I’m hoping to see reprinted that could push this over the top. [card]Serum Visions[/card]. Many people speculated that we would see it in Modern Masters 2015, but it was omitted. With Scry becoming an evergreen mechanic as of Magic Origin‘s release, we could see this powerful cantrip back in Standard. We also have the option to build this deck around [card]Collected Company[/card], running other creatures with disruptive enter-the-battlefield effects like [/card]Silumgar Sorcerer[/card]. If we’re looking for strong top-end win conditions, Temur has access to [card]Sarkhan, Unbowed[/card] and [card]Icefall Regent[/card].